@JunckerEU vs. @MartinSchulz: How leading candidates in the 2014 European Parliament elections campaigned on Twitter
First Monday

@JunckerEU vs. @MartinSchulz: How leading candidates in the 2014 European Parliament elections campaigned on Twitter by Shana Meganck, Jeanine Guidry, Marcus Messner, and Vivian Medina-Messner

Twitter has become a valuable tool both for politicians trying to monitor conversations and communicate with constituents as well as for publics interested in discussing and engaging on political matters. This is the first study to research Twitter use during the 2014 European Parliament elections. Twitter posts by the two main candidates in the elections, Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz, were comparatively analyzed with specific emphasis on frequency of Twitter use, content of tweets and interaction levels. Results showed that unlike previous research studies on Twitter use by politicians, the candidate that used Twitter less often and used the interactive characteristics of Twitter less frequently won the election. However, the winning candidate focused significantly more on specific topics and functions of relevance to European voters, such as immigration and the targeting of specific EU countries.


Literature review
Discussion and conclusion




In less than a decade, social media platforms have become tools that candidates running for political office can no longer ignore during their campaigns. According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project survey conducted the summer before the 2012 United States presidential election, “the use of social media is becoming a feature of political and civic engagement” with 36 percent of respondents considering social networking sites either “very” or “somewhat” important to them when following political news (Rainie and Smith, 2012). Additionally, the same study found that not only did nearly 25 percent of respondents feel that social media sites were important in discussing and engaging others on political matters, but 25 percent self-reported that they became more active in discussing politics after viewing political social media posts, and 16 percent altered their opinion regarding a political issue due to information posted on social media sites (Rainie and Smith, 2012). A recent Pew Internet and American Life Project study found that nearly half of Americans have participated in a political or other civically minded activity, including taking part in a group that shares an interest in an issue/cause or encouraging others to take action on issues important to them, on social media in the past year (Anderson, et al., 2018).

Similar results have been found through research conducted on social media and politics in the European Union (EU). As of early June 2018, 55 percent of adults in Europe said they use social media (Poushter, et al., 2018). A 2013 study found that in eight of the EU member states, the Internet or social media were the main avenues for expressing views on public issues (TNS Political & Social, 2013). Another study found that social media can be used in European election campaigns to mobilize a candidate’s supporters or to convince the uncommitted to vote for them, and more than half of European Internet users think social media are a good way to keep updated on or have a say in political affairs (Davies, 2014).

Social media has become an essential part of the marketing strategy for both companies and public figures because it allows them to talk directly with their various stakeholders, but also enables stakeholders to talk back as well as communicate with other stakeholders. Because of this, it is essential for businesses and public figures to engage stakeholders through these newer avenues of communication. Thus, the impact of stakeholder communications via these online platforms has become an increasingly important area of research (Chui, et al., 2012).

In politics, it is now imperative for social media to be a part of every politicians overall strategy. While various social media platforms are an important part of the marketing mix, user demographics show that Twitter has become an essential communication tool with more than 326 million active users worldwide as of January 2019 and 500 million tweets sent per day (Cooper, 2019; Twitter.com, 2019). According to Sullivan (2013), Twitter has not only increased the speed and growth of campaigns and campaign coverage but has also become a crucial way for candidates to connect directly with constituents and other interested observers, bypassing traditional media. Additionally, studies have reported that Twitter cannot only be used as a way to bypass traditional media, but it can also be used as a connection to traditional media with tweets often quoted verbatim by journalists and journalists regularly using political tweets as part of their reporting process (Graham, Broersma, et al. 2013; Parmelee, 2014; Small, 2010). Similarly, Enli (2017) found that Twitter has become the main online information channel for political candidates as well as a platform for mass communication to publics.

While there have been a number of studies researching Twitter use and U.S. elections as well as specific EU member state elections, this is one of few studies researching the campaigns for European Commission President. Other studies have focused on online campaign strategies in the previous two elections for the European Parliament in 2004 and 2009. Schweitzer (2009), for instance, studied the Web sites of German parties in the 2004 elections. Vreese (2009) surveyed candidates in eight countries on their campaign styles also during the 2004 election. Vergeer, et al. (2011) studied online campaigning based on one country, in their case the use of Twitter during the 2009 EU elections in the Netherlands. Vergeer, et al. (2012) then also conducted a cross-national comparative analysis of Web sites by candidates and parties in the 2009 elections.

The European Union is an economic and political partnership between 28 countries, and 24 official and working languages [1]. There are fewer official languages than member states, as some share common languages. The 2014 campaign for the President of the European Commission was the first of its kind in the EU because it saw the first personalized pan-European election campaign. Previous elections were mainly focused on national and district-level politics. The 2014 election changed this as the main candidates for European Commission Chief, Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz, campaigned throughout all of Europe even though their election was not direct.

Good social media habits matter to political campaigns because it has the potential to directly affect stakeholder opinions as well as encourage voter turnout and results, so it is important to look back on how these competing candidates adopted and used the microblogging platform Twitter during the 2014 election to inform future use of social media in campaigning. Therefore, comparatively analyzing the tweets of Junker and Schulz, with specific emphasis on frequency of Twitter use, content of tweets and interaction levels will help to uncover whether Twitter engagement levels benefit election results.



Literature review

One of the most popular social media platforms is Twitter, a microblogging service that launched in 2006. It allows users to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages. People write short updates, called “tweets,” of 140 characters or fewer (since the completion of this study, this has changed to a 280 character limit). These messages are posted to the user’s profile, sent to their followers and are searchable on Twitter search (Twitter.com, 2019). Each user has a Twitter profile where all of their updates are aggregated into a single list and the Twitter application program interface also allows the integration of Twitter with other Web services and applications. In 2018, 24 percent of adult Internet users worldwide were using Twitter. Twitter users are frequent visitors to the site with 46 percent using Twitter daily and 26 percent checking in several times per day (Smith and Anderson, 2018).

Twitter and politics

Where Twitter was initially used during Barack Obama’s successful presidential bid in 2008, Twitter usage in political campaigns is not limited to the United States today. In Western industrialized countries, Twitter has become a part of the tool kit for national and international political campaigns.

For instance, after reviewing tweets tagged to the popular Canadian political hashtag #cdnpoli, Small (2011) found that there is a connection between journalism and Twitter with a large number of political journalists contributing to the political hashtag and a considerable amount of media content being shared through it. Additionally, analyzing the 2010 British and Dutch national elections, Broersma and Graham (2012) found that almost a quarter of the British and nearly half of the Dutch candidates used Twitter as a part of their campaigns and stated that these tweets were often quoted verbatim by journalists and used as a regular news source. In the United States, Parmelee (2014) looked at how political tweets shape which issues get covered and how those issues are covered. In-depth interviews with political journalists at U.S. newspapers showed that they regularly use political tweets as part of their reporting process and see Twitter as more important than Facebook to their reporting. Additionally, reporters said that Twitter shaped their coverage by what they cover, who they interviewed and how they verified information.

Twitter has not only gained great popularity among users and journalists throughout the world, but has also become a valuable tool for politicians to converse, build an online following and communicate with constituents. While it is widely acknowledged that the use of social media in political campaigns is accompanied by a number of communication challenges such as the possible loss of message control and an overall blurring of traditional audience conceptualizations (Conway, et al., 2013), the successful use of social media in general, and Twitter in particular, during the 2008 U.S. presidential election suggests that social media use by candidates, at the very least, provides new opportunities for citizen engagement with their campaigns (Graham, Broersma, et al., 2013).

Other studies related to Twitter and politics have focused more on using the platform to analyze opinion levels of candidates. For instance, a study by Matsa and Jurkowitz (2014) looked at citizen’s opinions regarding the 2014 European Parliament elections on Twitter and uncovered that there are mixed emotions toward the European Union (EU) in general and an overall lack of passion about the candidates seeking the presidency of the European Commission. The study analyzed over a million tweets in English, French and German and found that language played a difference in assertion level, with the Twitter conversation in German being more positive than the ones in English and French.

With Twitter becoming an increasingly essential part of the communication toolkit for political campaigns because it gives candidates a platform for conversing with both journalists and constituents, this study seeks to explore this topic further with a focus on the 2014 EU Parliament elections.

Interactive use of Twitter in political campaigns

Politicians worldwide are increasingly adopting Twitter as a communications platform, especially during elections. Twitter use among U.S. political candidates has been almost universal since the 2010 mid-term elections, and Twitter use among members of the British Parliament spiked from just under eight percent in 2009 to nearly two-thirds in 2013 (Graham, Broersma, Hazelhoff, et al., 2013; Jackson and Lilleker, 2011). Additionally, according to a study by Glassman, et al. (2013), 78.7 percent of the members of Congress had an official Twitter account in 2011.

With that being said, several studies have found that the level of interaction on Twitter by candidates is limited. Jungherr (2016) conducted a systematic literature review on Twitter use in election campaigns and concluded that several studies found that candidates use Twitter to mostly post personal messages, and interactions with other Twitter users was infrequent. Golbeck, et al. (2010) also found that the members of Congress active on Twitter in 2009 rarely promoted interaction through the use of retweets or mentions, but rather shared the same information from other media platforms.

Using Twitter as a broadcasting platform versus as an engagement platform was a common theme mentioned in several studies. For instance, Small (2010) analyzed the content of 729 tweets from Twitter accounts of parties and/or leaders with seats in the Canadian national parliament or provincial legislatures in order to examine how Canadian politicians use Twitter and the extent to which this use contributes to the creation of a virtual community. The analysis showed that Twitter is being used by Canadian politicians more as a broadcasting channel than as a social engagement platform. In other words, it was used more as a one-way than a two-way communication platform.

Grant, et al. (2010) came to a similar conclusion when they analyzed the online engagement between politicians and the public by conducting a content analysis of the utilization of Twitter by Australian politicians as well as a random sample of Australian Twitter users with whom the researchers could compare the politicians. It was concluded that although politicians are noisier on Twitter in general, this noise is due more to broadcasting than engaging in dialogue. Those that conversed, however, appeared to gain more political benefit, such as politicians’ influence on the community at large and the benefit politicians gain through the possibilities for listening that Twitter offers, than those that did not. The researchers also concluded that Twitter is continually becoming the political space in Australia where ideas, issues and policies are first announced, discussed and debated.

Jackson and Lilleker (2011) conducted a study that assessed the use of Twitter by 51 members of the British Parliament to determine whether they are using the platform as a strategic communication channel. The researchers analyzed tweeting behavior of the politicians in terms of frequency of updates and follower/followed ratio, personal and political characteristics of MPs that drive the use of Twitter, and whether they were using Twitter as a tool of impression management and/or a channel enhancing their constituency service role. The authors concluded that only one in 10 politician’s tweets, and six personal and political factors tend to influence which ones tweet, including gender, age, party and seniority. Additionally, there is clear evidence that Members of Parliament use Twitter as a tool of impression management, but that these tweets are mostly comprised of self-promotion. Constituency service was found to be a secondary function of the use of Twitter, specifically for promoting their local activities.

Broersma and Graham (2012) also analyzed use of Twitter during the 2010 British and Dutch elections and found the British candidates primarily used their tweets to broadcast information regarding their “message,” while the Dutch candidates tended to use their tweets more as a form of interaction with their followers.

In a more recent study, Enli (2017) looked at Twitter use of the two candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and found that both candidates used social media primarily as a marketing tool to mobilize voters with little interaction between candidates and followers other than retweeting select tweets. Comparing the two campaigns, Trump retweeted more often with about 25 percent of his tweets being retweets versus 15 percent of Clinton’s tweets being retweets. Additionally, Trump’s retweets were often (78 percent) tweets written by ordinary people, whereas Clinton’s were messages posted by her related campaign accounts. For both campaigns, one-way communication was common and there was little-to-no interaction noticed between the candidate and potential voters. Enli (2017) even noted that opportunities for public engagement decreased from 2012 to 2016 through things such as the elimination of comment sections of Web sites.

While several studies have concluded that the level of interaction on Twitter by political candidates has been limited, others have highlighted slowly increasing levels of interaction. Graham, Broersma, Hazelhoff, et al. (2013) studied the use of Twitter during the 2010 U.K. general election campaign and found that British politicians, like their Dutch and American counterparts, primarily use Twitter as a unidirectional form of communication. However, a smaller group of candidates did use it to interact with voters by consulting with them and mobilizing them for campaigning purposes, and therefore tapped into the potential Twitter provides for facilitating a closer relationship between politicians and their constituents.

Small (2011) looked at Canadian politics on Twitter in a study that analyzed who uses political hashtags, the nature of tagged tweets and the extent to which Twitter allows for political conversation and participation by reviewing tweets tagged with #cdnpoli, the hashtag for tweets about Canadian politics. The study concluded that a variety of Twitter users were contributing to the #cdnpoli hashtag. However, original reporting on #cdnpoli was extremely minimal and very few tweets were conversational in nature. With this being said, Small (2011) noted that simply posting with a political hashtag can be seen as a participatory act. Therefore, although #cdnpoli, and other popular political hashtags, may not provide a forum for political discussion, it is still a forum for political expression.

Other studies have determined that the level of interaction on Twitter varies by political parties. As determined by Jungherr (2016), compared to candidates of governing parties, opposition parties and challengers were more interactive on Twitter; however, these interactions were directed mostly towards other politicians or journalists and rarely between candidates and citizens. Additionally, the review found that the intensity of the competition often corresponded with the level of Twitter use, as did strong political opinions and former success of Twitter use by members of the same party.

Peterson (2012) analyzed congressional early adoption of Twitter with a specific emphasis on what determinants motivate a member of Congress to utilize Twitter as part of their media strategy and to see if the decision to adopt Twitter is shaped by district demographics. Through using data collected from Twitter accounts during the 2008 congressional election, it was determined that there are partisan, cohort and ideological determinants on early congressional Twitter adoption. While Republicans were more likely to utilize Twitter, district demographics did not shape the use of Twitter.

Based on the existing literature on Twitter use in political campaigns that has determined the use of Twitter by candidates as an engagement platform is limited, even though the level of interaction appears to be increasing slightly, and that the level of interaction varies by political party, this study attempts to analyze the use of Twitter in the EU elections, with a focus on interaction levels, by two the main parliamentary rivals. Therefore, this study posed the following exploratory research questions:

RQ1: How did the main EU parliamentary rivals use Twitter during the final two weeks of the campaign?

RQ2: How do stakeholders engage with the tweets sent by the main EU parliamentary rivals during the final two weeks of the campaign?

RQ3: Is there a difference in the level of retweets in response to the tweets sent by the two main EU parliamentary rivals?

RQ4: Is there a difference in the level of favorites in response to the tweets sent by the two main EU parliamentary rivals?

Twitter topics in political campaigns

Beyond looking at general use of and interaction levels on Twitter, previous research conducted on Twitter and politics have also focused on the specific content of candidates’ tweets, with a look at both overall functions and specific topics. While many different political campaign uses of Twitter have been studied, few of these tweets appear to focus on policy issues (Jungherr, 2016), instead varying between topics such as campaign updates (Graham, Broersma, et al., 2013; Jungherr, 2016), voter outreach Aharony (2012) and personal updates from the candidate (Kruikemeier, 2014; Jungherr, 2016).

Focusing on the 2013 German federal election campaign, Stier, et al. (2018) looked at how politicians during the 2013 German federal election campaign used different social media platforms in political communications. The study compared topics of importance to a mass audience to topics discussed by candidates on social media and found that candidates prioritized different topics than the mass audience.

Groshek and Al-Rawi (2013) examined issues and themes communicated in social media posts on the official Facebook pages of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as well as the #election2012 hashtag on Twitter — three of the most visible, popular and active social media spaces for the 2012 presidential election in the United States. The study concluded that the popular topics communicated on both Facebook pages were highly interrelated whereas the tweets had a more diverse and broad focus. Popular issues and themes on Twitter included Obama, Romney, vote, people, country, good and America. Another key finding related to content was that neither presidential candidate was framed in an overly critical manner on his opponent’s Facebook page or on Twitter’s dedicated nonpartisan election page.

After considering the previous literature on content in political tweets, and uncovering the limited use of diverse functions as well as the lack of coverage on any type of specific policy topics, these studies raised questions about which topics leading candidates in the EU parliamentary election used in their Twitter engagement. This led to the following research questions:

RQ5: About which societal/political topics were the main EU parliamentary rivals using Twitter during the final two weeks of the campaign?

RQ6: What functions did the tweets of the main EU parliamentary rivals serve during the final two weeks of the campaign?

RQ7: Is there a difference between the type and frequency of topics addressed in tweets sent by the two main EU parliamentary rivals?

RQ8: Is there a difference between the type and frequency of functions addressed by tweets sent by the two main EU parliamentary rivals?

Twitter’s effect on election outcomes and political engagement

Limited studies have gone beyond looking at the interactive use of Twitter in political campaigns and the content of tweets posted by candidates to analyze its effect on election outcomes and political engagement; however, several studies have studied Internet use and effects in political campaigns. Kenski and Stroud (2006) used data from the 2000 National Annenberg Election Survey, the largest academic survey on political attitudes and behavior ever conducted of the U.S. population, to look at the connection between Internet access and political efficacy (internal and external), knowledge and participation. The study hypothesized that both access and exposure would be positively associated with efficacy, knowledge and participation, and it was concluded that Internet access and online exposure to information about the presidential campaign are significantly associated with internal and external efficacy, knowledge and participation.

Shah, et al. (2005) used two-wave national panel survey data conducted in February 1999, June 2000 and November 2000 in order to determine the Internet effects on civic participation as well as investigate the role of the Internet as both a source of information and a place for political expression. They concluded that informational media use fosters citizen communication, which in turn contributes to increased civic engagement. The authors also stated that while they found that both online and off-line channels lead to actual participation, online information seeking and interactive civic messaging oftentimes impact civic engagement more than face-to-face communication and traditional print and broadcast media.

Kruikemeier, et al. (2013) conducted a scenario experiment using a fictitious political Web site that was manipulated by content and level of interactivity and a laboratory experiment using real-world Web sites to examine whether personalized online communication and the use of interactive features increased political involvement by bringing politics closer to citizens. Therefore, the central question of this study was: To what extent do levels of political personalization and interactivity of online communication increase political involvement among citizens? The study concluded that both personalization and interactivity had a positive effect on citizens’ political involvement. Specifically, citizens who visited a Web site that focused more on an individual politician, versus a political party, and had more interactive features felt more politically involved. Additionally, it was concluded that the combination of personalized, interactive online communication had an even stronger effect on citizens’ involvement than when the two were used separately.

While several authors have questioned whether the overall use of the Web and social media in particular make a difference on voting outcomes (Conway, et al., 2013), a study focusing on the 2004 Australian national elections found that Web campaigning had a significant and independent impact on the level of electoral support candidates received (Gibson and McAllister, 2006). The authors concluded that, running a Web campaign was an important component of a successful political campaign. A later study by Gibson and McAllister (2011) looked at the 2007 Australian elections through the lens of both Web campaigning and social media engagement. They found that instead of the expected link between Web campaigning and electoral success, it now was social media engagement that appeared to make the difference in winning votes.

Specifically looking at Twitter, Kruikemeier (2014) analyzed the content characteristics of political campaigning on Twitter, the effects of candidates’ use of online campaigning (versus no use) on electoral support, and the relationship between candidates’ style of online campaigning and electoral support. It was hypothesized that political candidates who used Twitter would receive more preferential votes than those candidates who did not use Twitter and that the more reciprocal interaction a candidate used, the more preferential votes the candidate would receive. In order to test the hypotheses, the study linked content data of political tweets and aggregated data of voting, which created a link between the uses and effects of Twitter during an election campaign. The study found that the use of Twitter by political candidates increased during the campaign timeframe, that Twitter was used most often to talk about candidates’ political persona (e.g., self promotion), that political candidates often used interactive features on Twitter (e.g., engaging in conversation), and that Twitter had a significant impact on preferential votes.

Additionally, after reviewing 127 studies focused on Twitter use in political campaigns, Jungherr (2016) found that while some studies found a link between Twitter use and electoral wins, others did not. It appeared candidates successfully used Twitter to distribute information to their supporters and exposure to a candidate’s tweets led to higher feelings of connectedness than being exposed to candidates in more traditional forms of mass media, such as on TV or in newspapers. Additionally, personalized messages by candidates increased recognition, recall and imagined intimacy.

To further the limited research in the area of effects of Twitter use in political campaigns, the following final research question was posed based on the previous literature:

RQ9: Did the candidate who won the EU parliamentary elections use Twitter more frequently and more interactively (using more hashtags, mentions, and direct replies)?




This study analyzed the tweets sent by the two main rivals in the 2014 European Parliament Elections during the final two weeks of the campaign from 11 May to 25 May 2014. A quantitative content analysis of a census of the tweets sent by the official Twitter accounts of Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) and Martin Schulz (@MartinSchulz), the two main rivals in the elections, was conducted during this time period. This resulted in a total sample of 762 tweets; this sample was collected manually from the two accounts on 26–27 May 2014, when the tweets were newly posted and easy to collect. Coding protocols for the tweets in the sample were developed, tested and implemented for the coding process. First, the tweets were coded for a series of typical Twitter characteristics, including which campaign sent the tweet; the date the tweet was posted; whether the tweet originally was a retweet or modified tweet; whether a tweet contained hashtags, mentions, or hyperlinks; the number of hashtags, mentions, and hyperlinks; whether the tweet was retweeted or favorited and if so, how many times; whether the tweet was a direct reply; whether the tweet contained photos or videos; and the language of the tweet. Second, based on a tweet typology developed by Graham, Broersma, Hazelhoff, et al. (2013), the function of the tweet was identified (see Table 1 for a complete list of function categories). Third, again based on a tweet typology by Graham, Broersma, Hazelhoff, et al. (2013), the tweet was coded for the primary topic of its content identified (see Table 2 for a complete list of topics). Fourth, based on a typology developed by Saxton and Waters (2014), the tweet was coded for its category: information (spreading information about the candidate and his campaign, his activities, and anything else of interest to his followers), community building and dialogue (tweets that promote interactivity and dialogue), and promotion and mobilization (getting followers to do something for the campaign, like watching a debate, retweeting a tweet, or voting). Finally, if the tweet contained a hyperlink, that link was coded for whether it belonged to the campaign itself and what type of Web site it was (traditional newspaper, online newspaper, other tweet, other social media platform, blog, or other).


Table 1: Twitter function categories.
Update from the campaign trail/Campaign promotion/Campaign actionIn Forbach, a border town, our French and German candidates campaign together #solidarity #europe #nowschulz
Call to voteSunday, every vote will count for #NotreEurope. Vote for @MartinSchulz, a leftist president in the European Commission! #EP2014
Political news/report#ForumEuropa @EPP Have a great candidate : @JunckerEU , Europeanist and defender of the drive that recognizes and respects the European diversity
Position taking/own stance/party stanceThe EU is not a military power & should avoid war at all costs. I want to protect our members from Eastern Europe & Central Europe
Critiquing/arguingCountries lose their sovereignty when they have too much debt. That is what the socialists want, and that is what I will prevent
Requesting public inputWhat would you like to tell @MartinSchulz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdPbnRS1ax0 ...? One word: what should he focus on? #TellEUROPE
AcknowledgementJacques Delors has marked the history of Europe through its presidency of the EU Commission. Honored to have his support https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2dp43Br34w ...
Personal.@MartinSchulz Ready to start remembering a partner who died unexpectedly #TellEurope #NowSchulz
OtherThere have been more beautiful songs at the Euro Vision Song Contest . But I’m a tolerant person . #wahlarena #mitJuncker



Table 2: Twitter topic categories.
TopicTweet example
Civil rightsWe have banished the demons of the twentieth century: racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism @MartinSchulz @ PS_EP2014 @PES_PSE #NotreEurope
Business, economyDon’t believe those who tell you that you can fight deficits with new deficits. There are no jobs without budget consolidation #withJuncker
EnvironmentWith me there will be no privatisation of water #wahlarena #withJuncker
European UnionI want a European Union that is more just and prioritizes defending the interests of its citizens #TellEurope #NowSchulz
GovernmentWe need to better regulate lobbyists. Any member shall publish its list of lobby meetings. But interest groups must be able to express themselves #TellEurope
Health and social welfareI know people are suffering and I want to give them a better life, and especially a better future for our young people #TellEurope
ImmigrationMy plan, in 5 points, to address the challenge of immigration in Europe: http://juncker.epp.eu/news/europe –needs– more –solidarity — cope– challenge– immigration ... #TellEurope #withJuncker
Military and defenseEU is not a military power & must do everything to avoid war. I want to protect our Central & Eastern European member states #TellEurope
Science and technologyThe techies are showing me how it’s done @Tuenti #Madrid — the next Googles + Facebooks should be made in Europe!
War and conflictsEurope is a soft power. We do not want war. Sanctions are the only option. #eurodebat #withJuncker
World eventsWe need economic sanctions if Russia does not change its behavior #withJuncker — American Press Club Paris
Specific EU countryIt is good to be in Spain, a country with a strong historical connection to my home country Luxembourg #withJuncker
Campaign and party affairsMeeting end campaign #europeennes to #lyon ac jccambadelis MartinSchulz Vincent_Peillon and Manuel Valls
Norms and valuesThe need for trust. A worthy ideal @MartinSchulz says he will work for. It’s undeniable we need more of it in the 21st Century #TellEurope
Other#Selfie @Tuenti in Madrid — I become more ‘techie’ by the day! #withJuncker http://juncker.epp.eu/my-priorities/digital


Two coders were trained to establish intercoder reliability. Both coders started by coding 10 percent of the posts (n=76) for the study variables, and after intercoder reliability was established the two coders each coded half of all the posts (n=762). After pre-testing and subsequent changes to the coding protocol, the intercoder reliability test with the ReCal statistical program showed acceptable Scott’s Pi (Scott, 1955) coefficients with an average of .99. Intercoder reliability by each category was: 1.00 (language, question y/n, conversation y/n, link to own site y/n, and type of Web site y/n)), .90 (tweet function), .91 (tweet primary topic), and .91 (tweet category).




The goal of this study was to analyze the Twitter engagement of the two main candidates in the 2014 European Parliament elections. The research questions posed for this study will be answered individually in the following sections.

RQ1: How did the main EU parliamentary rivals use Twitter during the final two weeks of the campaign?

Of the total sample of tweets (n=762), 68.5 percent (n=522) were sent by Schulz’s Twitter account, and 31.5 percent (n=240) by Juncker’s Twitter account. Schulz’s official Twitter account sent an average of 34.8 tweets per day during the two-week period, while Juncker sent an average of 16 tweets per day during that same time frame.

A complete list of languages used in the tweets of this study sample can be found in Table 3. The majority of tweets in the total sample of tweets as well as on both Juncker’s and Schulz’s accounts were in English (Juncker: 43.8 percent, n=105, and Schulz: 30.7 percent, n=160), although for Schulz, French was a close second (27.8 percent, n=145) while Juncker tweeted less in French compared to English (30.4 percent, n=73).


Table 3: Tweet language.
English34.8% (n=265)43.8% (n=105)30.7% (n=160)
French28.6% (n=218)30.4% (n=73)27.8% (n=145)
German18.4% (n=140)19.2% (n=46)18.0% (n=94)
Spanish9.6% (n=73)1.3% (n=3)13.4% (n=70)
Portuguese0.1% (n=1)0.4% (n=1)0.0% (n=0)
Italian3.7% (n=28)0.0% (n=0)5.4% (n=28)
Dutch1.2% (n=9)2.9% (n=7)0.4% (n=2)
Other3.7% (n=28)2.1% (n=5)4.4% (n=23)


Finally, 37.1 percent (n=283) of the tweets in the total tweet sample contained a photo and 3.0 percent (n=23) contained a video. In Schulz’s tweets, 35.8 percent (n=187) contained a photo and 4.0 percent (n=21) contained a video. In Juncker’s tweets, 40.0 percent (n=96) contained a photo and 0.8 percent (n=2) contained a video.

RQ2: How do stakeholders engage with the tweets sent by the main EU parliamentary rivals during the final two weeks of the campaign?

Both the median number of retweets for the entire sample and the median number of retweets for Schulz’s tweets was 18.00, while the median number of retweets for Juncker’s tweets was 19.00. The median like frequency for both the entire sample as well as for Schulz’s tweets was 9.00, while the median like frequency for Juncker’s tweets was 10.00.

RQ3: Is there a difference in the level of retweets in response to the tweets sent by the two main EU parliamentary rivals?

RQ4: Is there a difference in the level of favorites in response to the tweets sent by the two main EU parliamentary rivals?

There appeared to be no difference in engagement between the two Twitter accounts: Mann Whitney U-tests showed no significant differences between the median retweet frequencies (U= 62,064.000, p=.838) or between the median like frequencies (U= 58,728.500, p=.165).

RQ5: About which societal/political topics were the main EU parliamentary rivals using Twitter during the final two weeks of the campaign?

RQ6: What functions did the tweets of the main EU parliamentary rivals serve during the final two weeks of the campaign?

The topics of immigration, mentioning a specific EU country, and campaign/party affairs yielded a relatively large difference between how much the two respective candidates used them. Juncker’s tweets more frequently mentioned immigration, as well as specific EU countries, while Schultz’s tweets more frequently focused on campaign and party affairs (for a complete overview, see Table 4).


Table 4: Tweet primary topic.
Civil rights3.1% (n=24)0.0% (n=0)4.6% (n=24)
Crime/judicial proceedings0.1% (n=1)0.0% (n=0)0.2% (n=1)
Business/economy15.7% (n=120)15.4% (n=37)15.9% (n=83)
Environment0.3% (n=2)0.4% (n=1)0.2% (n=1)
European Union15.9% (n=121)15.8% (n=38)15.9% (n=83)
Government2.4% (n=18)4.2% (n=10)1.5% (n=8)
Health/Social welfare0.5% (n=4)0.0% (n=0)0.8% (n=4)
Immigration2.0% (n=15)4.6% (n=11)0.8% (n=4)
Military/defense0.8% (n=6)1.3% (n=3)0.6% (n=3)
Science/technology0.8% (n=6)1.7% (n=4)0.4% (n=2)
War/conflicts1.2% (n=9)1.3% (n=3)1.1% (n=6)
World events0.9% (n=7)2.5% (n=6)0.2% (n=1)
Specific EU country8.0% (n=61)14.6% (n=35)5.0% (n=26)
Campaign/party affairs38.7% (n=295)31.7% (n=76)42.0% (n=219)
Norms/Values2.2% (n=17).8% (n=2)2.9% (n=15)
Other7.3% (n=56)5.8% (n=14)8.0% (n=42)


Table 5 provides a complete overview of the functions fulfilled by the total sample of tweets as well as by each of the two accounts individually. The functions of campaign update, call to vote, critiquing a rival, and acknowledgment of another Twitter user yielded a relatively large difference between how much the two respective candidates used them.


Table 5: Tweet functions.
Campaign trail update/campaign promo/campaign action29.0% (n=221)22.9% (n=55)31.8% (n=166)
Call to vote8.5% (n=65)3.3% (n=8)10.9% (n=57)
Political news/report0.4% (n=3)1.3% (n=3)0.0% (n=0)
Position taking/own stance42.9% (n=327)45.8% (n=110)42.1% (n=220)
Critiquing/arguing4.2% (n=32)7.5% (n=18)2.7% (n=14)
Requesting public input0.4% (n=3)0.0% (n=0)0.6% (n=3)
Acknowledgment8.1% (n=62)11.3% (n=27)6.7% (n=35)
Personal0.8% (n=6)1.7% (n=4)0.4% (n=2)
Other5.2% (n=40)6.3% (n=15)4.8% (n=25)


RQ7: Is there a difference between the type and frequency of topics addressed in tweets sent by the two main EU parliamentary rivals?

A Fischer’s Exact Test was performed to examine the relationship between the two Twitter accounts and the topic of immigration, since one of the expected frequencies was <5. The relation between these variables was significant (p = .001), meaning that Juncker tweeted significantly more frequently about immigration than his rival Schultz. Chi square tests were performed to examine the relationship between the two Twitter accounts and the mention of a specific EU country as well as mentioning campaign/party affairs. Juncker mentioned specific EU countries significantly more frequently than Schultz, χ2 (1,762) = 20.59, p <.001, while Schulz tweeted significantly more frequently about campaign and party affairs than Juncker (χ2(1,762) = 7.33, p = .007).

RQ8: Is there a difference between the type and frequency of functions addressed by tweets sent by the two main EU parliamentary rivals?

Chi Square tests showed that Juncker used the tweet functions of critiquing/arguing (χ2(1,762) = 9.49, p = .002) and acknowledgement (χ2(1,762) = 4.54, p = .033) significantly more frequently than Schultz. Schultz, however, more frequently used Twitter to encourage people to vote (χ2(1,762) = 12.13, p <.001) and to report on campaign updates (χ2(1,762) = 6.30, p = .012).

RQ9: Did the candidate who won the EU parliamentary elections use Twitter more frequently and more interactively (using more hashtags, mentions, and direct replies)?

The complete results can be found in Tables 6, 7 and 8. Hashtags were the Twitter tool used most frequently by both candidates: Juncker used at least one hashtag in 84.6 percent (n=203) of his tweets, and Schulz used at least one hashtag in 80.8 percent (n=422) of his tweets. The biggest difference is visible when considering the presence of a mention: Juncker used at least one mention in 38.3 percent (n=92) of his tweets, and Schulz used at least one hashtag in 65.7 percent (n=343) of his tweets.


Table 6: Tweet characteristics.
CharacteristicTotal presentTotal not presentJuncker presentJuncker not presentSchulz presentSchulz not present
Hashtag82.0% (n=625)18.0% (n=137)84.6% (n=203)15.4% (n=37)80.8% (n=422)19.2% (n=100)
Mention57.1% (n=435)42.9% (n=326)38.3% (n=92)61.7% (n=148)65.7% (n=343)34.3% (n=179)
Reply14.6% (n=111)85.4% (n=651)7.1% (n=17)92.9% (n=223)18.0% (n=94)82.0% (n=428)



Table 7: Mention frequency.
042.3% (n=322)61.7% (n=148)33.3% (n=174)
135.3% (n=269)25.4% (n=61)39.8% (n=208)
213.5% (n=103)10.0% (n=24)15.1% (n=79)
35.8% (n=44)2.9% (n=7)7.1% (n=37)
42.2% (n=17)0.0% (n=0)3.3% (n=17)
50.4% (n=3)0.0% (n=0)0.6% (n=3)
60.2% (n=2)0.0% (n=0)0.4% (n=2)
70.2% (n=2)0.0% (n=0)0.4% (n=2)



Table 8: Hashtag frequency.
017.8% (n=136)15.4% (n=37)19.0% (n=99)
142.3% (n=322)47.1% (n=113)40.0% (n=209)
227.8% (n=212)33.8% (n=81)25.1% (n=131)
38.9% (n=68)3.3% (n=8)11.5% (n=60)
42.2% (n=17)0.0% (n=0)3.3% (n=17)
50.7% (n=5)0.0% (n=0)1.0% (n=5)
70.1% (n=1)0.4% (n=1)0.0% (n=0)
90.1% (n=1)0.0% (n=0)0.2% (n=1)


Both candidates used most of their tweets to provide information to their audience, but Juncker more frequently so. While 75.4 percent (n=181) of Juncker’s tweets provided information, only 64.4 percent (n=336) of Schulz’s did. On the other hand, Schulz used 20.9 percent (n=109) of his tweets for call to action, while only 7.9 percent (n=19) of Juncker’s tweets did the same (see Table 9).


Table 9: Tweet category.
Information67.8% (n=517)75.4% (n=181)64.4% (n=336)
Community building15.4% (n=117)16.7% (n=40)14.8% (n=77)
Call to action16.8% (n=128)7.9% (n=19)20.9% (n=109)




Discussion and conclusion

This study analyzed the Twitter engagement of the leading candidates in the 2014 EU Parliament elections, Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz. The literature on candidate Twitter use and electoral wins is inconclusive, with some studies finding a connection between Twitter usage and wins and others not. This study found that the candidate that used Twitter less often and used the interactive characteristics of Twitter less frequently won the election. Juncker, the winner of the election, used Twitter significantly less than his opponent. Schulz tweeted twice as much as Juncker and also used his tweets much more for calls to action for his supporters. Juncker also trailed in the use of mentions and use of hashtags, which are other indicators of two-way communication and interaction on social media. Nevertheless, Schulz was not able to achieve a significantly higher Twitter engagement from his constituents, as shown by the insignificantly higher mean numbers of retweets and favorites for his tweets.

However, the results of this study show that Juncker made use of specific topics in his Twitter engagement. For instance, Juncker was more likely to tweet about immigration, which was an important topic in the election overall, and about specific EU countries. Schulz, on the other hand, put more emphasis on civil rights as well as campaign and party affairs. The conservative candidate, Juncker, used Twitter more to present his own positions and for argument, in that he differentiated himself from his social-democratic opponent. Schulz, on the other hand, posted more campaign updates and promotions as well as calls to vote. In other words, Juncker dominated his Twitter account with information tweets, while Schulz was much more likely to use his for calls to action.

This study adds to the current research on Twitter use during political campaigns. For starters, this study looked at frequency and type of use combined with levels of engagement, topics covered and functions served. All of which have been studied, but not in combination. Additionally, this election was different than other EU elections because never before had an EU Parliament election been as personalized with two major candidates campaigning across Europe. At the same time, the EU election can hardly be compared to a race in the United States during the same timeframe, where Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney ran much more sophisticated social media campaigns with large staffs and minute-by-minute engagement on multiple accounts for various platforms. While Twitter has already played a role as a communications tool in national elections in Europe, the results of this study show that the EU as a transnational entity is just beginning to explore Twitter as a multinational campaign platform. While campaigns in the United States regularly make use of social media tools in English and Spanish, the Twitter engagement in the EU also has its special challenges with the variety of languages used.

This study is a first step in looking at Twitter use during EU Parliament elections. It will be important to continue to study the use of Twitter and other social media platforms in future EU elections as well the use of Twitter by EU officials as part of their continued communications strategy during their time in office. Case studies and in-depth interviews with campaign strategists will help to further understand the Twitter engagement of the campaigns.

As with most research, this study has its limitations. While a two-week sample is acceptable for a research study, it does not capture the full extent of the social media campaign of these candidates. Future elections studies should broaden this approach and also include other social media to study cross-platform strategies.

Social media in most Western countries have become a permanent part of the communication tool kit for national political campaigns. This study is a first attempt to study the use of social media in a transnational political campaign as it can only be run within the EU. This campaign approach brings unique challenges in inter-cultural communication and multi-language approaches. The campaigns by Juncker and Schulz have shown how challenging social media campaigns in this environment and at this scale can be. End of article


About the authors

Shana Meganck teaches public relations courses in the School of Communication Studies at James Madison University. She has two main research interests. One focuses on the intersections of health communication, new media and public relations. The other one focuses on pedagogy — both public relations-related pedagogy as well as broader pedagogical topics such as active learning and service learning. Shana’s research has been presented at a number of conferences, including AEJMC, NCA, ICA and IPRRC, and has been published in several places including Public Relations Review, Journal of Public Relations Education, Social Media and Strategic Communication, Teaching Journalism in Mass Communication, amongst others.
E-mail: aredutech [at] shaw [dot] ca

Dr. Jeanine Guidry is an assistant professor at the Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Health Behavior and Policy at the School of Medicine at VCU, where she completed her dissertation on designing effective messages to promote the future Zika vaccine. Guidry’s research agenda focuses on message testing of visual health messages on social media. Her research has been published, among others, in Vaccine, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Health Behavior and Policy, Health Communication, Journal of Public Health Research, American Behavioral Scientist, Journal of Healthcare Communications, Communication Teacher, and Journal of Social Marketing.
E-mail: ghernand [at] ualberta [dot] ca

Dr. Marcus Messner is the associate director of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University and an associate professor of journalism. His main research focus is on the influence and adoption of social media in journalism, public relations and health communication and he has a scholarship record of more than 110 academic publications and presentations at academic conferences. He has published his research in academic journals such as Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Newspaper Research Journal, Journalism Studies, Journalism Practice, Mass Communication & Society, Corporate Communications, and Public Relations Journal as well as in various books. Dr. Messner earned his Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Miami.
E-mail: mdyck [at] ualberta [dot] ca

Vivian Medina-Messner is a full-time journalism instructor at the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University. She teaches large online classes in Mass Communications and Global Communications with (300 to 600 students). She has also taught writing, reporting, public relations and multimedia classes in the undergraduate and graduate journalism programs. Prior to entering academia, she worked as a content producer for Media General Interactive (TimesDispatch.com) and as an online producer for MiamiHerald.com. She also worked as a freelance business columnist for Spanish newspaper El Nuevo Herald and worked as a Spanish consultant for the blogging platform Tumblr. Medina-Messner is currently working on her Ph.D. in art education at VCU. She earned a M.A. in business journalism from Florida International University and a B.A. in international communications and international affairs from the American University of Paris.
E-mail: quideau [at] ualberta [dot] ca



1. Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.



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Editorial history

Received 14 March 2019; revised 22 October 2019; accepted 26 October 2019.

Copyright © 2019, Shana Meganck, Jeanine Guidry, Marcus Messner, and Vivian Medina-Messner. All Rights Reserved.

@JunckerEU vs. @MartinSchulz: How leading candidates in the 2014 European Parliament elections campaigned on Twitter
by Shana Meganck, Jeanine Guidry, Marcus Messner, and Vivian Medina-Messner.
First Monday, Volume 24, Number 11 - 4 November 2019
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v24i11.9856

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